ED opposes bail for Agusta defendant: risk of absconding, may try to tamper with evidence
Opposing Agusta Westland’s accused VVIP helicopter scam to Christian Michel James’ bail application, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) argued that he is not an Indian citizen and that he therefore constituted a “flight risk”. The agency also said the presence of a “key defendant”, accused of having “played a central role in the whole case”, is “crucial at all stages” of the ongoing investigation.
In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the agency said: “His extradition was obtained with extreme difficulty and procedural hurdles.”
He said that “the offense committed in the present case contains a complex network of transactions between jurisdictions and the investigation into this matter is ongoing and the presence of the applicant is crucial at all stages. It is feared that if the applicant is released on bail, he may abscond to avoid the investigation…”
Rejecting the defendant’s claims, the ED said: “Article 17 of the extradition treaty with the United Arab Emirates not only permits the trial of offenses for which the extradition of a defendant is sought, but also related offences”.
The Claimant “is a key defendant in this case and is alleged to have played a central role in the whole case as an intermediary hired by M/s Agusta Westland to obtain confidential information regarding the process of buying VVIP helicopters by the Government of India and was admittedly paid 42 million Euros for influencing the contract in its favor under the guise of five contracts… through 2 of its companies…,” the affidavit states.
The ED also stated that “during his interrogation in custody, the defendant attempted to pass confidential documents to his attorney at the time of lawful access, that further investigation in the present case is still underway and that many crucial documents must be competently collected for the purpose of the investigation”. Therefore, the affidavit mentioned, “there is a strong concern that the petitioner may attempt to tamper with witnesses or evidence and obstruct the legal process.”
During questioning, the ED said, James “undertook to provide bank statements for his companies along with relevant agreements and other documents.” But no information has been provided so far,” he said.
ED’s affidavit in court said James’ “successive applications for bail…were denied on the merits and at this stage there is no strength in the assertion that any allegation or specific role has been assigned to the applicant”.
Previously, the CBI had also opposed his request for bail.
James had asked the SC to seek bail and the benefit of Section 436A of the CrPC, which states that subtrials who have been detained for up to half of the maximum term of imprisonment specified for the offense charged must be released by the court. in personal guarantee with or without surety.
James was extradited from Dubai and was arrested by the ED on December 22, 2018.